Residents invited to info session on improving internet speeds in Victoria

City of Victoria to host broadband public workshop

VICTORIA, Texas – The City of Victoria plans to host an information meeting this evening on a new survey they have out on broadband internet. Darrek Ferrell, the City of Victoria Assistant City Manager, joined us on Community Crossroads and shares more.

The following is a transcript:

Astrain:  Welcome to community Crossroads. Next, we hear from one of the assistant city managers for the City of Victoria, Darrek Ferrell, about a forthcoming internet initiative. Welcome to Community Crossroads.

Ferrell: Thank you for having me.

Astrain: And so talk to us about this broadband initiative. What does it mean? Is it faster internet? Is it free internet? What would it look like once implemented?

Ferrell: Well, so it initially started, um, with the city gathering together a group of partners of public entities that all had an interest in serving their customers or the constituents, remotely or online, which became very important last year but we created a group that sought to try to provide access to the citizens, for reliable available and affordable internet service, the internet has become and thanks in large part to the pandemic, another utility like water or electricity. And so we see that as a vital thing. It’s not necessarily a giveaway or a free thing, you know, water, electricity, those aren’t free either but the ability to have access to it and the ability to have it in a way that’s reliable available, and affordable is important.

Astrain: So would it be added onto like a utility bill if you were to maybe get your internet from the city?

Ferrell: Well, so our intent hasn’t ever been to create a utility. You know, there are some cities that do that. There are a number of cities that are starting to create their own utility aren’t in has been to work with those providers. Typically we call them ISP or internet service providers and so there are several, I think there were about 11 that operate in Victoria County, correct. 11.

Astrain: I can only think of three.

Ferrell: Most people don’t have access to all 11. It depends on where you live, right? So you may have access to only one, but if you have access to multiple providers and you have options, um, and what we find is a, is a lack of options and that can affect the reliability that can affect, um, the, the pricing, right? So there are plenty of people who have access to the infrastructure that’s available to get internet but choose not to get it for one reason or another, choose not to subscribe. Um, so our goal is to make it where we mitigate some of those reasons for people not describing. And we mitigate those places where people aren’t, uh, able to connect.

Astrain: So, you’re hoping that maybe this will help bring the prices, make the prices that are out there now, more affordable

Ferrell: One hand, yes, but also make the service, something that connects. One of the things that we found is really important. Let’s start with a basic definition of broadband. Broadband was defined in 2015 by the FCC as 25 megabytes per second, download and three megabytes per second, upload speed. One reason that really changed last year and a level of importance is the fact that we all do zoom or video conferences. We had kids at home learning from school. We had mom and dad working on multiple devices at once. Absolutely. Right. And so everybody’s using up that bandwidth. So one there’s a need for more, but then the other challenge is the symmetry of it. Right? So when we do a video conference, we’re both sending and receiving information at the same time and that needs to happen at close to the same speed. So when we’re receiving at 25 megabytes per second, and we’re sending it three that’s when that other guy on the another side of the line, it looks like he’s frozen or, you know, there’s that buffering. It’s, we’re not getting information out at the same time. So ultimately we really need to upgrade infrastructure and we really need to make it available to folks and at, at an affordable weight, at an affordable rate rather and in a way, they can depend on working when they

Are, y’all keeping track of the conversations that are happening on the federal level. I know when president Biden talks about infrastructure, he also talks about the internet.

Ferrell: Absolutely Well, and so at the federal level, there’s a program called the emergency broadband benefit through the FCC that citizens who meet certain eligibility criteria can sign up for. Um, and some of the providers locally do participate in it where it would offer some assistance with the cost of, of internet service. Um, in terms of infrastructure installation, there are tons of grants and tons of federal programs there’ll be used as we partner through a study that we’re doing now, we use that the results of that study, that information, not only to work with providers on expanding access and expanding networks in Victoria, but also on achieving the ability to go out and get more grants and to be able to share information with.

Astrain: Which is why it’s so important, right, to get the word out about these community surveys. And we actually want to share this information with you. You can fill it out… or call the number above if you don’t have internet access. And you can also head over to the Victoria Public Library at 302 North Main Street. The deadline is 5:00 p.m., July 28th. and there’s also going to be a workshop from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, July 21st at 2905 East North Street with experts on hand.

Correction: Darrek Ferrell is the Assistant City Manager for the City of Victoria. His name is misspelled in the video interview and has been corrected in the web copy. The Victoria Television Group regrets this error.